BURKE, Edmund Quotes
(1729-1797), English orator and statesman
Ambition can creep as well as soar.
There is a wide difference between admiration and love. The sublime, which is the cause of the former, always dwells on great objects and terrible; the latter on small ones and pleasing; we submit to what we admire, but we love what submits to us: in one case we are forced, in the other we are flattered, into compliance.
Adversity is a severe instructor, set over us by one who knows us better than we do ourselves, as he loves us better too. He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. This conflict with difficulty makes us acquainted with our object, and compels us to consider it in all its relations. It will not suffer us to be superficial.
He who calls in the aid of an equal understanding doubles his own; and he who profits by a superior understanding raises his powers to a level with the heights of the superior understanding he unites with.
Some decent, regulated preeminence, some preference given to birth, is neither unnatural nor unjust nor impolitic.
When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated.—From that moment we have no compass to govern us, nor can we know distinctly to what port to steer.
Better be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident security.
An appearance of delicacy, and even of fragility, is almost essential to beauty.
Whenever our neighbor's house is on fire, it cannot be amiss for the engines to play a little on our own. Better to be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident security.
If a great change is to be made in human affairs, the minds of men will be fitted to it; the general opinions and feelings will draw that way. Every fear and hope will forward it; and they who persist in opposing this mighty current will appear rather to resist the decrees of Providence itself, than the mere designs of men.—They will not be so much resolute and firm as perverse and obstinate.
That chastity of honor, which feels a stain like a wound.
The age of chivalry has gone, and one of calculators and economists has succeeded.
Surely the church is a place where one day's truce ought to be allowed to the dissensions and animosities of mankind.
There are cases in which a man would be ashamed not to have been imposed upon. There is a confidence necessary to human intercourse, and without which men are often more injured by their own suspicions, than they could be by the perfidy of others.
Corrupt influence is itself the perennial spring of all prodigality, and of all disorder; it loads us more than millions of debt; takes away vigor from our arms, wisdom from our councils, and every shadow of authority and credit from the most venerable parts of our constitution.
Crimes lead into one another.—They who are capable of being forgers, are capable of being incendiaries.
Is it in destroying and pulling down that skill is displayed?—The shallowest understanding, the rudest hand, is more than equal to that task.
The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind, is curiosity.
An appearance of delicacy, and even of fragility, is almost essential to beauty.
I am convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others.
Controlled depravity is not innocence; and it is not the labor of delinquency in chains that will correct abuses. Never did a serious plan of amending any old tyrannical establishment propose the authors and abettors of the abuses as the reformers of them.
Those things that are not practicable are not desirable. There is nothing in the world really beneficial that does not lie within the reach of an informed understanding and a well protected pursuit. There is nothing that God has judged good for us that he has not given us the means to accomplish, both in the natural and the moral world. If we cry, like children, for the moon, like children we must cry on.
Despots govern by terror.—They know that he who fears God fears nothing else, and therefore they eradicate from the mind, through their Voltaire and Helvetius, and the rest of that infamous gang, that only sort of fear which generates true courage.
Difficulty is a severe instructor, set over us by the Supreme guardian and legislator, who knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us better too.—He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill.—Our antagonist is our helper.
Education is the cheap defense of nations.
Taste and elegance, though they are reckoned only among the smaller and secondary morals, are of no mean importance in the regulations of life.—A moral taste is not of force to turn vice into virtue; but it recommends virtue with something like the blandishments of pleasure, and it infinitely abates the evils of vice.
The road to eminence and power from obscure condition ought not to be made too easy, nor a thing too much of course. If rare merit be the rarest of all rare things, it ought to pass through some sort of probation. The temple of honor ought to be seated on an eminence. If it be open through virtue, let it be remembered, too, that virtue is never tried but by some difficulty and some struggle.
The esteem of wise and good men is the greatest of all temporal encouragements to virtue; and it is a mark of an abandoned spirit to have no regard to it.
Example is the school of mankind; they will learn at no other.
Facts are to the mind, what food is to the body.—On the due digestion of the former depend the strength and wisdom of the one, just as vigor and health depend on the other.—The wisest in council, the ablest in debate, and the most agreeable companion in the commerce of human life, is that man who has assimilated to his understanding the greatest number of facts.
Of all things wisdom is the most terrified with epidemical fanaticism, because, of all enemies, it is that against which she is the least able to furnish any kind of resource.
Nothing is so rash as fear; its counsels very rarely put off, whilst they are always sure to aggravate the evils from which it would fly.
Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.
Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver; and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings.
There is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
Frugality is founded on the principle that all riches have limits.
No government ought to exist for the purpose of checking the prosperity of its people or to allow such a principle in its policy.
Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.—It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free.—Their passions forge their fetters.
If an idiot were to tell you the same story every day for a year, you would end by believing him.
Philosophical happiness is to want little; civil or vulgar happiness is to want much and enjoy much.
Refined policy has ever been the parent of confusion, and ever will be so, as long as the world endures. Plain good intention, which is as easily discovered at the first view as fraud is surely detected at last, is of no mean force in the government of mankind. Genuine simplicity of heart is a healing and cementing principle.
The chastity of honor which felt a stain like a wound.
Humanity cannot be degraded by humiliation. It is its very character to submit to such things. There is a consanguinity between benevolence and humility. They are virtues of the same stock.
Too much idleness, I have observed, fills up a man's time much more completely, and leaves him less his own master, than any sort of employment whatsoever.
It is by imitation, far more than by precept, that we learn everything; and what we learn thus, we acquire not only more effectually, but more pleasantly.—This forms our manners, our opinions, our lives.
He censures God who quarrels with the imperfections of men.
All men that are ruined are ruined on the side of their natural propensities.
Virtue will catch, as well as vice, by contact; and the public stock of honest manly principle will daily accumulate.
The great must submit to the dominion of prudence and virtue, or none will long submit to the dominion of the great.—This is a feudal tenure which they cannot alter.
Fraud is the ready minister of injustice.
A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.
The wise determine from the gravity of the case; the irritable, from sensibility to oppression; the high-minded, from disdain and indignation at abusive power in unworthy hands.
Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any departure from it, under any circumstance, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.
Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.
Unluckily the credulity of dupes is as inexhaustible as the invention of knaves. They never give people possession; but they always keep them in hope.
He who calls in the aid of an equal understanding, doubles his own; and he who profits by a superior understanding, raises his powers to a level with the height of the understanding he unites with.
Laws are commanded to hold their tongues among arms; and tribunals fall to the ground with the peace they are no longer able to uphold.
In effect, to follow, not to force, the public inclination, to give a direction, a form, a technical dress, and a specific sanction, to the general sense of the community, is the true end of legislation.
Those who attempt to level never equalize. In all societies some description must be uppermost. The levellers, therefore, only change and pervert the natural order of things; they load the edifice of society by setting up in the air what the solidity of the structure requires to be on the ground.
The only liberty that is valuable, is a liberty connected with order; that not only exists with order and virtue, but which cannot exist at all without them. It inheres in good and steady government, as in its substance and vital principle.
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite is placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be of it without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate habits cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air, is plainly broke loose: but we ought to suspend our judgment until the first effervescence is a little subsided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have really received one.
What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue?—It is the greatest of all possible evils, for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.
The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
The true danger is, when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts.
How little man is; yet, in his own mind, how great! He is lord and master of all things, yet scarce can command anything. He is given a freedom of his will; but wherefore? Was it but to torment and perplex him the more? How little avails this freedom, if the objects he is to act upon be not as much disposed to obey as he is to command!
Man is an animal that cooks his victuals.
Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend. The law can touch us here and there, now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.
The Christian religion, by confining marriage to pairs, and rendering the relation indissoluble, has by these two things done more toward the peace, happiness, settlement, and civilization of the world, than by any other part in this whole scheme of divine wisdom.
The more accurately we search into the human mind, the stronger traces we everywhere find of the wisdom of Him who made it.
This minority is great and formidable. I do not know whether, if I aimed at the total overthrow of a kingdom, I should wish to be encumbered with a large body of partisans.
What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue!
To make anything very terrible, obscurity seems, in general, to be necessary.—When we know the full extent of any danger, and can accustom our eyes to it, a great deal of the apprehension vanishes.
A wise and salutary neglect.
The cold neutrality of an impartial judge.
Nobility is a graceful ornament to the civil order. It is the Corinthian capital of polished society. It is indeed one sign of a liberal and benevolent mind to incline to it with some sort of partial propensity.
Curiosity, from its nature, is a very active principle; it quickly runs over the greatest part of its objects, and soon exhausts the variety common to be met with in nature. Some degree of novelty must be one of the materials; in almost every instrument which works upon the mind; and curiosity blends itself, more or less, with all our pleasures.
Obstinacy is certainly a great vice; and in the changeful state of political affairs is frequently the cause of great mischief. It happens, however, very unfortunately, that almost the whole line of the great and masculine virtues—constancy, gravity, magnanimity, fortitude, fidelity, and firmness—are closely allied to this disagreeable quality, of which you have so just an abhorrence; and in their excess, all these virtues very easily fall into it.
He that wrestles with us, strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
Oppression makes wise men mad; but the distemper is still the madness of the wise, which is better than the sobriety of fools.
An extreme rigor is sure to arm everything against it.
Good order is the foundation of all good things.
Portrait-painting may be to the painter what the practical knowledge of the world is to the poet, provided he considers it as a school by which he is to acquire the means of perfection in his art, and not as the object of that perfection.
A vigorous mind is as necessarily accompanied with violent passions as a great fire with great heat.
In doing good, we are generally cold, and languid, and sluggish; and of all things afraid of being too much in the right. But the works of malice and injustice are quite in another style. They are finished with a bold masterly hand, touched as they are with the spirit of those vehement passions that call forth all our energies whenever we oppress and persecute.
Let us only suffer any person to tell us his story, morning and evening, but for one twelve-month, and he will become our master.
By gnawing through a dyke, even a rat may drown a nation.
The nerve that never relaxes, the eye that never blenches, the thought that never wanders,—these are the masters of victory.
Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.
Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows, and of lending existence to nothing.
If the grain were separated from the chaff which fills the works of our national poets, what is truly valuable would be to what is useless in the proportion of a mole-hill to a mountain.
Poetry, with all its obscurity, has a more general as well as a more powerful dominion over the passions than the art of painting.
I know of nothing sublime which is not some modification of power.
Nothing, indeed, but the possession of some power can with any certainty discover what at the bottom is the true character of any man.
Instead of casting away our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable degree, and, more shame to ourselves, we cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted the more we cherish them. We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason because we suspect that in this stock each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themseive of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.
By the disposition of a stupendous wisdom, moulding together the great mysterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression.
A great object is always answered, whenever any property is transferred from hands that are not fit for that property to those that are.
If the prudence of reserve and decorum dictates silence in some circumstances, in others prudence of a higher order, may justify us in speaking our thoughts.
Prudence is a quality incompatible with vice, and can never be effectively enlisted in its cause.
To read without reflecting, is like eating without digesting.
We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.
The body of all true religion consists in obedience to the will of God, in a confidence in his declaration, and an imitation of his perfections.
The writers against religion, while they oppose every system, are wisely careful never to set up any of their own.
We know, and, what is better, we feel inwardly, that religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of all good and of all comfort.
True religion is the foundation of society, the basis on which all true civil government rests, and from which power derives its authority, laws their efficacy, and both their sanction. If it is once shaken by contempt, the whole fabric cannot be stable or lasting.
Times and occasions and provocations will teach their own lessons. But with or without right, a revolution will be the very last resource of the thinking and the good.
I despair of ever receiving the same degree of pleasure from the most exalted performances of genius which I felt in childhood from pieces which my present judgment regards as trifling and contemptible.
Nothing tends so much to the corruption of science as to suffer it to stagnate; these waters must be troubled before they can exert their virtues.
That chastity of honor which felt a stain like a wound.
While shame keeps watch virtue is not wholly extinguished from the heart, nor will moderation be utterly exiled from the mind of tyrants.
If the prudence of reserve and decorum dictates silence in some circumstances, in others prudence of a higher order may justify us in speaking our thoughts.
Whatever disunites man from God disunites man from man.
Slavery is a state so improper, so degrading, so ruinous to the feelings and capacities of human nature, that it ought not to be suffered to exist.
Unsociable humors are contracted in solitude, which will, in the end, not fail of corrupting the understanding as well as the manners, and of utterly disqualifying a man for the satisfactions and duties of life. Men must be taken as they are, and we neither make them or ourselves better by flying from or quarreling with them.
An entire life of solitude contradicts the purpose of our being, since death itself is scarcely an idea of more terror.
The age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded.
The great difference between the real statesman and the pretender is, that the one sees into the future, while the other regards only the present; the one lives by the day, and acts on expediency; the other acts on enduring principles and for immortality.
What morality requires, true statesmanship should accept.
One source of sublimity is infinity.
Nothing so effectually deadens the taste of the sublime as that which is light and radiant.
The truly sublime is always easy, and always natural.
Next to love, sympathy is the divinest passion of the human heart.
As to great and commanding talents, they are the gift of Providence in some way unknown to us. They rise where they are least expected. They fail when everything seems disposed to produce them, or at least to call them forth.
Taste and elegance, though they are reckoned only among the smaller and secondary morals, yet are of no mean importance in the regulation of life. A moral taste is not of force to turn vice into virtue: but it recommends virtue, with something like the blandishments of pleasure.
It is for the most part in our skill in manners, and in the observances of time and place and of decency in general, that what is called taste consists; and which is in reality no other than a more refined judgment. The cause of a wrong taste is a defect of judgment.
Taxing is an easy business.—Any projector can contrive new impositions; any bungler can add to the old; but is it altogether wise to have no other bounds to your impositions than the patience of those who are to bear them?
The method of teaching which approaches most nearly to the method of investigation, is incomparably the best; since, not content with serving up a few barren and lifeless truths, it leads to the stock on which they grew.
Unsociable tempers are contracted in solitude, which will in the end not fail of corrupting the understanding as well as the manners, and of utterly disqualifying a man for the satisfactions and duties of life. Men must be taken as they are, and we neither make them nor ourselves better by flying from or quarrelling with them.
Fellowship in treason is a bad ground of confidence.
Free governments have committed more flagrant acts of tyranny than the most perfectly despotic governments we have ever known.
Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle.
Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.
He who calls in the aid of an equal understanding doubles his own; and he who profits of a superior understanding raises his powers to a level with the height of the superior understanding he unites with.
I never knew a man that was bad, fit for any service that was good. There was always some disqualifying ingredient mixing with the compound, and spoiling it. The accomplishment of anything good is a physical impossibility in such a man. He could not if he would, and it is not more certain that he would not if he could, do a good and virtuous action.
Great mischiefs happen more often from folly, meanness, and vanity, than from the greater sins of avarice and ambition.
Virtue will catch as well as vice by contact; and the public stock of honest, manly principle will daily accumulate. We are not too nicely to scrutinize motives as long as action is irreproachable. It is enough to deal out its infamy to convicted guilt and declared apostasy.
Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not to names; to the causes of evil which are permanent, not the occasional organs by which they act, and the transitory modes in which they appear.
Vice incapacitates a man from all public duty; it withers the powers of his understanding, and makes his mind paralytic.
Vice loses half its evil by losing all its grossness.
Never expecting to find perfection in men, in my commerce with my contemporaries I have found much human virtue. I have seen not a little public spirit; a real subordination of interest to duty; and a decent and regulated sensibility to honest fame and reputation. The age unquestionably produces daring profligates and insidious hypocrites. What then? Am I not to avail myself of whatever good is to be found in the world because of the mixture of evil that will always be in it? The smallness of the quantity in currency only heightens the value. They who raise suspicions on the good, on account of the behavior of ill men, are of the party of the latter.
If you can be well without health, you may be happy without virtue.
While shame keeps its watch virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart.
Laws are commanded to hold their tongues among arms, and tribunals fall to the ground with the peace they are no longer able to uphold.
Delusion and weakness produce not one mischief the less, because they are universal.
She is not made to be the admiration of all, but the happiness of one.
Tell me what are the prevailing sentiments that occupy the minds of your young men, and I will tell you what is to be the character of the next generation.
In the morning of our days, when the senses are unworn and tender, when the whole man is awake in every part, and the gloss of novelty is fresh upon all the objects that surround us, how lively at that time are our sensations, but how false and inaccurate the judgments we form of things!
When will young and inexperienced men learn caution and distrust of themselves.